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Wednesday, June 9, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Sounders -- Youth Movement Might Help Midfield

Special To The Seattle Times

The Seattle Sounders might have found a remedy for their ailing midfield.

A trio of young professional soccer players from up and down North America's Pacific coast converged at Renton Memorial Stadium this week and put on a memorable "Monday Night Futbol" performance.

Shan Gaw, a recent Stanford University graduate who made his first start for the Sounders May 15 in San Diego and played 10 minutes in Saturday's home game against Vancouver, used the exhibition match against the San Jose Clash of Major League Soccer to his advantage. The Sounders lost 3-1 in a shootout after the teams played to a scoreless standoff.

For many of the Sounders, the objective was to impress Clash Coach Brian Quinn. But Gaw, along with Christian Michner and Oliver Heald, who were invited to Seattle for tryouts, certainly caught the eye of Sounder Coach Neil Megson.

"I was told how good Gaw is, but we haven't gotten to see him much. He didn't train with us," Megson said. "So we decided to give him the full 90 minutes (against the Clash). He's very good on the ball. He has good vision."

Michner, who played college soccer for NCAA playoff-savvy Creighton, comes to Seattle from a team in Mexico. He's still awaiting international clearance to play in an A-League match.

Heald scored five goals and four assists in 29 games for the Vancouver 86ers last season.

"We're strong at the back, but anybody who has watched our team knows we're having trouble at midfield. You can tell we're in trouble when you look at the roster and I'm starting at midfield," said Megson, who turns 37 next month.

Reunion postponed

An ankle injury to San Jose's Leighton O'Brien in the 16th minute of Monday's game not only spoiled the young midfielder's chance to impress Clash Coach Brian Quinn - it also put a damper on the family reunion.

O'Brien holds American and Irish citizenship but spent his formative years here. He is a 1994 graduate of Federal Way High School.

A group of about 20 family members and friends turned out, only to see him suffer a rolled ankle. He hobbled to the bench, where trainers applied ice to an ugly-looking knot above his right ankle.

"It feels ugly, too," he said afterward. "Coming up here gave me a chance to see my family, but it also gave me the chance to show what I can do. I was going to try to win a place on the team."

The MLS and A-League operate under a joint agreement that includes player loans and call-ups. And Quinn has said O'Brien might be a player the Sounders could borrow.

San Jose claimed O'Brien, 23, in the April 5 MLS waiver draft. He had played a total of 22 minutes this season in two appearances.

O'Brien was a three-time All-West Coast Conference selection at the University of San Diego. His father, Fran, who played soccer for the Irish national team and professionally in England, coaches a Tacoma-based U-13 team. His mother also was a member of Ireland's national team.

Notes

-- Forward Mark Baena is third among A-League scorers with 15 points (6 goals, 3 assists). San Diego midfielder Carlos "Chile" Farias, whom the San Jose Clash put on waivers April 1, leads the league in goals scored (11) and points (26).

-- Goalkeeper Bill May said he thought Monday's shootout was fun, despite the Clash winning on his watch. As the scoreless battle approached the end of regulation, it was announced the final score would be 0-0 with no overtime and no shootout.

"I was excited when they changed their minds," May said. "I hate to say that, because everyone rags on shootouts. Almost everyone else hates them. But it meant a few more minutes for me."

May, a former Washington Husky, hadn't played all season. "It's been awhile. I'm used to playing consecutive games. There are a lot of things you don't learn in practice."

-- Midfielder Randy Mann missed the MLS exhibition because of a pulled groin, and Scott Jenkins sat out with a sprained foot.

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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